The Spitfire Grill: Love, Loss, and a Little Liquor
BY KATHLEEN KOMOS —
Take one ghost town, a restaurant, its owner and a group of loyal customers, then throw in a feisty girl fresh from prison. Mix well and throw on the grill — the Spitfire Grill, that is.
With songs capturing both sides of the emotional spectrum, the Theatrikos Theatre Company’s presentation of The Spitfire Grill tells the story of Percy Talbott, a woman who just got out of prison. She is looking for a place to start over and finds a picture of Gilead, Wisconsin in a discarded travel brochure. The local sheriff gets her a job at the only restaurant in town, the Spitfire Grill, and so begins Percy’s journey of healing and perhaps helping the town heal a bit. Not everyone is whom they seem to be in this musical and unique and endearing stories lay within each character.
Amber Stonebraker, a theater performance major who graduated from Northern Arizona University (NAU) in 2009, plays Percy. Through the many rehearsals, Stonebraker began to identify with her character quite well.
“She is very headstrong. She just got out of prison so she is very guarded and just wants a new life. Percy has been hurt a lot which made her independent, sarcastic, and a little bit snappy,” Stonebraker said. “However, she really has a big heart and a lot of hope. I would tell you what she went to prison for, but it’s kind of a spoiler and explains a lot of her character.”
Stonebraker and six other actors make up the colorful cast of characters. Robert Lovett, an entertainer and server at Black Barts Steakhouse, Saloon Musical Revue, plays Sheriff Joe Sutter who is Percy’s parole officer and potential love interest.
“At the beginning, Sheriff Sutter is bored with the town. There is nothing there and has just seen better days,” Lovett said. “Through the course of the musical, he learns to love his town again and in the process falls for Percy.”
Dennis Hattem, the musical’s director and a civil engineer for a private consulting firm, found directing The Spitfire Grill to be an interesting challenge and a different experience.
“I know music. I can play a little guitar and piano and hold a tune, but someone professionally trained might have done this easier,” Hattem said. “However, there is not a lot of choreography for this show. There is movement and blocking, but not much dancing. I understand blocking because I understand acting, but a more difficult musical would be difficult to do without more extensive training.”
As an actor in both plays and musicals, Lovett appreciates the methods of acting needed for both.
“A play relies solely on the strength of character. While it is important to have this element in a musical too, it is secondary to timing, dancing, and the way you fit in with the other characters,” Lovett said. “It is less spontaneous because the music requires that you wait for the choreographed moments. I just love musicals and the balance between spectacle and realism.”
Stonebraker has nothing but good things to say about Theatrikos, including the rehearsal process and the musical.
“I love [Flagstaff]. This is really the only theater in town, but the Theatrikos family treats me so well; they’re so nice,” Stonebraker said. “This show is a hidden gem. The music is great, the characters are loveable and the whole musical just makes you feel good. This whole process is delightful.”
Hattem agrees with Stonebraker and believes the audience will leave the show feeling just a little bit lighter.
“At the heart of this show, it’s a heartwarming drama with plenty of light and funny moments,” Hattem said. “It is about coming to terms with the past. Everyone will end up feeling happy and good about themselves, the talent and the story. It has been a really wonderful experience.”
The show opens on Jan. 25 and runs through Feb. 10 in the Doris Harper-White Playhouse. Friday and Saturday performances are at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday performances are at 2 p.m. Tickets, prices and more information can be found at theatrikos.com.